One of my favorite singers died on this date. Steve Goodman died on September 20, 1984. He was 36.
I first heard of Steve Goodman’s in 1972. Arlo Guthrie recorded his song; “City of New Orleans” and it had some commercial success. The song would be covered by many other singers. Goodman won a posthumous Grammy for Willie Nelson’s 1985 recording of the song.
In 1974 I was visiting a friend at the University of Wisconsin and we went to a bar to hear John Prine. He mentioned Goodman as his writing partner on a number of songs he sang that evening. The next day I went into a record store in Madison and bought Goodman’s eponymous first album. I was hooked.
The first time I saw Steve Goodman perform was April 10, 1977. My college roommate and I went to the Royal Oak Music Theatre near Detroit. Goodman was the opening act that night. The featured performer was Leon Redbone. I saw Goodman perform once more live a few years later in Chicago and once or twice on television.
A Chicago native, much of Goodman’s music told stories of life in the Windy City. As a former Chicago resident, Harper’s Other Dad is particularly fond of “Lincoln Park Pirates”; a song about a local towing company.
He also wrote the song “Daley’s Gone” about [the first] Mayor Richard Daley. The song includes the couplet:
When John Kennedy wanted to be President he knew just what to do
He called on Mayor Daley, ’cause he was Irish too.
Like many good Chicagoans, he was a Cubs Fan. He wrote and recorded three songs about the Cubs; “A Dying Cub Fan’s Last Request”, “When the Cubs Go Marching In” and “Go, Cubs, Go”. The latter has often been played on Cubs’ broadcasts and at Wrigley Field after Cubs wins.
Goodman received some tongue-in-cheek recognition in 1974 from country singer David Allan Coe. Coe recorded Goodman’s song “You Never Even Call Me By My Name” which Coe said was the “perfect country song”. Actually it became “perfect” to Coe’s standards after Goodman wrote an additional verse that begins;
“I was drunk the day my mom got out of prison…”.
Goodman battled with leukemia throughout his entire performing career. He lost his battle in 1984. Some of his ashes were sprinkled on Wrigley Field.
Goodman was a wonderful performer and musician. He was a terrific songwriter as well though my favorite of his records is a song by another songwriter; Michael Peter Smith. Goodman first recorded “The Dutchmen” in 1972.